Our weekend with family ended tonight after all of us sharing our second turkey leftovers for lunch and dinner for 9 at a restaurant in Roanoke. Eldest son and his family are headed home to get a fire going in their woodstove before the bitter cold of the night and to allow son to get some projects graded for his students before their classes this week. They have two more weeks of the semester prior to exams.
We had a great time having 2 of our children and their kids here for the weekend, the kids enjoying cousin time. We put a big dent in the 20+ pound turkey and ate all of the left over sides, a whole quart of my homemade icicle pickles, a pint of mixed olives, a dozen huge rolls, and a couple of pies.
Yesterday while the house was quiet, yes it happens even with 6 adults and 3 kids, I made 4 batches of soap for the next Holiday Market. I have never successfully made more than two batches in a day with no batch failure. I have 40 bars of soap curing, 10 each of Citrus Soother, Jasmine, Cedarwood/Sandalwood, and Goat Milk/Honey.
I failed to purchase lavender essential oil when I went in to get the avocado and castor oils for the second two batches of soap, so I will need another trip in town tomorrow, so that I can get essential oils for lotion bars. I still need to get a few boxes stained for Men’s Grooming boxes for the shop for holidays. If you visit the shop between now and Monday night, you can receive a 10% discount on knitwear and yarn by entering the code SB/CM10%.
Tomorrow will be grocery day and Monday I will finally plant garlic before the midweek much needed rain.
Now that Thanksgiving is behind me, I need to start thinking about gifts for the kids and grands for Christmas.
The first Holiday Market is Saturday. Today is sunny, calm, and 70ºf, a perfect day to be outside. I took a walk and because of Saturday’s forecast, drove by the lot where I will be set up. I was hoping that I would be able to slip a strap or polycord under or through the car stop wedge that will be the back of my stall, but they look like they are firmly adhered to the brick pavers. Last year, the market manager said he was trying to get the town to install tie down rings in the pavers, but that has not been done.
The hope for the strap or cord is because Saturday is forecast to be a high of mid 50’s, 20% chance of rain, and 25 mph gusts of wind. I have to erect a 10 X 10 foot popup canopy and I don’t want to spend all 5 hours worrying about it taking flight, taking out my display, or another vendor’s stall. I have a few empty 5 gallon buckets and dozens of rock piles on the farm, so I think I will load up a few buckets with 50 pounds or so each of rocks and tie the canopy down to them. If the wind can take out 3 of those along with the 25 pounds of leg weights, I am in trouble.
Of my last soap making, one of my popular scents did not set up properly. The bars are usable but not pretty, so that batch will be retained for family use. I will have to make another batch of that scent for the December market and see what others sell to determine which other bars to make.
My crates are packed. I spent the afternoon making sure that I have the little clip on chalkboard tags for each scent of soap, each scent of lotion bar, and each salve. I still have 3 skeins of yarn to label and pack, decide whether I want 2 or 3 tables and if I go with 3, then I need to decide what to use for my 3rd table cover. I bought an Indian cotton throw in the fall, cut and hemmed it to make two table covers, but I don’t have a third table cloth that will go with the color or pattern. I’m sure I will figure it out by Saturday morning.
If it is windy as forecast, my A frame stand for hats and mitts will likely blow over. The T shaped one with clips for shawls can be anchored to the table edge with a C clamp. Maybe I should add a base across the back of the A frame so it too can be clamped down.
I will dress in lots of layers that can be peeled off if it warms up during the day. Fortunately a new and favored local coffee shop has opened in one of the fixed stores right at the market, so I can at least keep a cup of hot coffee or tea nearby to warm my hands.
This was last year. The display is changed and simplified now. You will have to wait to see how it sets up this year. If you can’t come in person, stop by the shop https://squareup.com/store/cabin-crafted. You can make your purchases there and I will deliver them to you if you are local or mail them to you if not local.
Yesterday needed to be put behind me, let go, forgotten and a new try today. Grandson was less anxious with his much anticipated field trip successfully behind him and knowing that today was his last full day of school of third grade and would likely be used to shut down, clean out desks and cubbies and start thinking about his summer, so our morning was less stressful. I avoided all convenience stores today, instead, opting to go out to a new local coffee shop with my good friend. We ended our morning with a tour of her gardens, a 60 X 60 foot mixture of vegetables, flowers, and fruits with wide paths of wood chips, a drip irrigation system, trellises, and wind sculptures all fenced. I find her gardens very peaceful and her company both fun and relaxing. I came home with two kinds of sweet potato shoots and enough Tomatillo seed to plant what I want of them this year.
I finally braved a peek at the soap. It looked better, felt sound, and so I un-molded it to cut. It is smooth and uniform, though much darker than the first batch of Goats and Bees.
In addition to the darker color, it has a somewhat caramel scent, probably from reheating the honey which is added right at the end during the original formulation. It will do. It is curing and will hopefully be ready before the older batch is gone. I have one more lotion bar scent to make, one more moustache wax, and one more beard oil and I will be ready for the two summer craft festivals that I will vend. I will wait until after they are done to make more supplies for the Holiday markets.
My spinning of the colorful fiber that I started a couple days ago is progressing with about 3/4 of it spun. The singles are lovely, and should ply into a soft beautiful fingering weight yarn of Merino, Corriedale, and Tussah Silk.
Tomorrow, I look forward to an afternoon with my spinning friends, both local and from farther away that gather annually at a friend’s house for a pot luck and afternoon of spinning and socialization. It should be a fun and relaxing time.
Yesterday, I finished spinning the fingering weight Dorset, a fairly generous 275+ yards of it and also read an article about dyeing with avocado pits which I thought was interesting. I had half a dozen of them and set them to simmer for an hour or so last night while washing and soaking the yarn.
This morning, I was awake earlier than necessary and curious about the dye. It was much paler than I had hoped for, so I strained the seeds out, heated it up again and added some of the Ruby dye left from the other day. The now washed yarn soaked in vinegar water while the dyes were heating and I draped the skein over a stick, ate breakfast and took Grandson to the bus stop. When I got home, I dropped the rest of the yarn into the dye, stirred it around a bit and went to get Granddaughter ready for preschool and fed. Before leaving to take her, the dyepot was removed from the heat to cool.
An interesting result. Once it is dry, I am going to pull off a few yards and so a sample knit to see what it does.
Once the dyeing process was complete, I decided to make a batch of Goats and Bees Soap, a palm oil free soap with Goat Milk and Honey. With the University kids having all recently left for summer, a quick trip into the thrift store the other day uncovered a great soap pot, about 4 quart, thick bottomed, stainless steel inside and a 1 quart rounded small pot with squat handles on both sides so that it rests nicely on the larger pot to make a double boiler for crafting. I walked out with both for $2 total. The new pot was used to make the soap today as the old pot has become the dye pot as it is larger.
It looks like butterscotch pudding, almost good enough to eat. It is curing in the window sill of the utility room, cocooned in an old towel. It will be cut into bars tomorrow to finish the curing process before the next craft event in about a month.
My spinning has been very, uh, white of late. I have been working on the almost two pounds of California Red which is white in spite of it’s name, and the local Dorset that I started at the Newport Past and Present when I was demonstrating spinning, and it too is white. I decided I needed to spin some color for a while, so I pulled out 4 ounces of mixed fiber that came in my monthly Spinning Box installment and started on it.
It is spinning a very smooth, soft single that should make a beautiful fingering weight yarn when finished.
For you followers, yesterday when I got home from taking N to preschool, I had bought some starter feed. When I went over to put some in Huck’s coop, Mama and her littles were exploring the inside of the coop. I moved the food and water to where Mama could see it and she immediately showed the littles how to drink and began breaking the starter into smaller pieces and dropping it in front of her brood. Last night when I went out to lock up the chickens, collect eggs, and check on the Mama and her littles, figuring she would have gathered them and nested in the straw on the bottom of the coop, I found this.
She had gathered them all back into the 5 gallon bucket and three of them were peeking out from under her wings. They are cute.
Years ago, when I taught Biology on the high school level, I was often reminded that our society of city dwellers are so far removed from the production of our food, that most of my students had no idea that their food was grown by people, harvested and processed into the canned and frozen products on the grocery shelves. The idea that their meat had been a living animal and that someone had to raise, feed, and have it slaughtered and butchered to be put on the styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic in the meat case was so foreign to them that they would argue with me over it. Truly a sad state of affairs.
Though they visited farms in Florida, I think it has been a good experience for my grand children to see that the chickens that I raise produce our eggs. That the chicken we put on the table was grown here on the farm, killed, cleaned and prepared here. The plants in the garden produce the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, squash, popcorn, peas and beans that they eat. They like helping out in the garden and pulling weeds to feed the chickens. To see the chicks hatch and know that they are being raised to produce the chicken and eggs we eat.
It is wonderful that there are cities that have started community gardens and schools that have gardens to teach children about food production and nutrition, but it needs to go farther. Watching chicks hatch in an incubator in a second grade classroom doesn’t really tell them from where their eggs and chicken come.
N and her mom went with me to an alpaca sheering and she sees me spinning yarn and knitting them hats, mittens, and sweaters from yarn, so she also has some realization that clothing doesn’t just come from a store.
Though I haven’t convinced them that homemade bread is better than factory produced balloon bread, they do love my corn bread, biscuits, scones, and made from scratch pancakes.
This has been a week of illness at our house. N was sick on Sunday, ok on Monday, sick again on Tuesday, ok on Wednesday and sick again yesterday. Today she seems ok again and started eating again last night. Daughter is in her first week of her new job and she has the stuffies, maybe from pollen that is increasing each day. One evening, I felt the virus that N had, but fortunately it was very short lived, only the one afternoon and evening, never like N.
Last night, two of my spinning friends came to our house to learn to make soap. In the frenzy of giving them the hands on experience, each making a batch with the other looking on and me on the sidelines coaching, I failed to take a single picture. They each left with a full mold of soap they made, one 3 pound batch of Lavender Rose and one of Bergamot Lemongrass and some palm oil to help them get started on their own. The only photo are the little muffin tins of overflow.
Both of these ladies are fiber artists, animal raisers, spinners, knitters and I was gifted with fiber to spin and knit in thanks, a great gift. What a great feeling to help others learn a skill and send them home with some of what they need to get started.
These two friends attend the spinning retreat that I attend, and one of them mentioned that she was selling her Strauch Petit Drum Carder to get a mechanized one. Once home, I talked with Jim about it and last night, she brought it to me as I decided to purchase it from her. I am excited. I will be able to blend fibers and fiber colors now. If I finally get brave enough to attempt to dye the fibers myself, I will increase my fun some more.
With Easter coming up this weekend, I was asked by K to hard cook some eggs for the kiddos to dye before Sunday.
Farm fresh eggs won’t peel if boiled, so I learned after starting to raise my own eggs, to steam them for 20 minutes. They cook perfectly, no green ring around the yolk and peel like a charm. This is the batch I did second, when the first batch had three cracked eggs in it and I knew not to let them dye them. I’m not a fan of the commercial dyes, but they are easiest and most child friendly, so they will dye the dozen eggs with their Mom and Dad tonight or tomorrow.
I didn’t want to be left out of the natural dye method this year, so while their eggs were steaming, I did three with yellow onion skins, three in beets, and one each of my Americaunas’ eggs as one lays blue eggs and the other green.
Later I am going to do a few with red cabbage, both brown eggs and Americaunas to see what shades of blue I get. The beet dyed ones surprised me, instead of the pink I expected, it turned the brown eggs more yellow. I know that these won’t be peel-able for deviled eggs as they had to be boiled with the natural dyes to get their color, but for breakfast or egg salad, they will be fine. Since 4 of the 20 eggs cracked during cooking, I enjoyed a couple for my breakfast. The kids were fascinated with the natural dyed eggs, but it just wouldn’t be as much fun for them as once you put them on the stove to boil with their dye, they just cook. They will have their fun later.
I love the rich brown of the onion skin dyed eggs. Maybe I should start saving more of the skins and see what color it dyes yarn.
Spring came in cold and wet, but no snow accumulation, thank goodness. The last two nights predicted to go into the upper 20’s f didn’t, so no damage to the herbs on the deck. The planted part of the garden is showing life, peas and radishes are up, the garlic is standing tall. I’m still not seeing any asparagus in my second year bed, but neither is my friend in hers, so maybe it is still a mite early. At Farmers Market on Saturday, I purchased 8 cabbage starts, already hardened off and they need to go into the ground, perhaps this afternoon. More comfrey has sprouted, also more peppers, but two varieties are not showing yet. Today, I dug a spadeful of the old comfrey plant and moved it beside the garden. I hope it will take root there and spread. It is another plant that likes wet feet and I am thinking about moving some up to the creekside with the daylilies that are there.
This is the first week of daughter’s new HR job and both of her kids decided that this is the week to test Mommom’s ability to deal with little ones not feeling well. N wasn’t feeling well on Sunday, but seemed ok yesterday. She had a dentist appointment for a cleaning and was quite a trooper, though Mommom was rattled as in the excitement of the new job, the trip away for the Taekwondo tournament, and N not feeling well, the insurance card and already filled out paper work was forgotten. I had to text daughter and SIL for the information, but for some reason, daughter’s return texts were not getting through but with SIL’s help through text messages, we muddled through. Maybe the paperwork wasn’t all filled out the way daughter would, but it got done. We had left the dentist, gone another town east for lunch and got a call from A’s school that he was in the nurse’s office and would I please come get him. Back across to him and he was brought him home to rest and drink lots of water for his headache. He lets himself get dehydrated and gets a headache on occasion.
This morning, he was put on the bus to school, N was dressed for preschool and we went to town to get a breakfast treat first. She seemed fine and chipper until she sat town with food in front of her. She is back home, did not go to preschool today, is carrying around a bucket when she is awake and felt too bad to bother getting up in bed for her nap.
Hopefully, when she awakes, she will be able to keep something down.
On Thursday evening, I will be having two friends over for soap making lessons. Though I am still working through a big tub of Palm Oil, I have wanted to phase that oil out of my soap making for ethical reasons. Palm oil is obtained by slash and burn of rain forests, then planted in the trees for palm oil and once they are of sufficient size, the entire tree is cut. The laborers for this industry are very poorly paid. Though coconut oil has some issues too, in that harvesting the coconuts is dangerous, they don’t cut down the whole tree and there are fair trade versions of the product available. To begin to play with the idea of palm oil free soap that is still vegan, not containing lard or tallow, I put together a recipe yesterday, scented it with lemongrass and sweet orange essential oils to see what I would get. That recipe made a mold full, plus 5 silicone muffin tins full. It was unmolded and cut a few minutes ago to begin curing for my use or maybe to go in my etsy shop. It smells delightful and the scraps made a nice lather. If it cures hard, I will begin the switch to the palm oil free soaps.
Slow roasting pork is in the oven. Preparing sides and cornbread will follow later to nourish the working family, kids and us.
Tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful so another gardening day will be in order, hopefully everyone will be healthy by then.
Slowly, we are returning to a normal routine around here. For the past 7 days, life has not even approached normal, starting with the clipper storm that slicked the roads over a week ago yesterday and closed schools, followed by the 16 inches of snow over 2 days that kept them closed and us snowed in. Sunday, with much digging, pushing, some kitty litter and lots of work, we got the Xterra out and up to the top of the driveway, allowing our SIL to get to work on Monday. Monday, we used the shovels and little tractor to dig out daughter’s car, allowing us to be able to leave the property while SIL was at work. Tuesday, the temperature began to climb a bit, we had some rain and while daughter had the kids at Martial Arts, I managed to get my CRV to the top of the driveway with a bit of slipping and sliding, so I left it there, putting 3 of the 4 cars a 2/10 mile walk uphill away.
Yesterday, our local school system and the one that daughter works in were both scheduled for two hour delays, but at least a return to school. She left, but grandson ended up with a change and another day of school closed, for a total of 5 days out. I took him with me when I took granddaughter to preschool and later with Mountaingdad joining us, back to pick her up. Between the time, we walked to the top of the driveway to take her to school and the time we went back to pick her up, the day warmed up with bright sun shining and the remaining snow on the driveway became slush and muddy run off but we could drive back down to the house. By the time daughter got home from work, we were able to drive SIL’s little low 2 wheel drive sedan to the top of the driveway and leave it and the rest of the cars can go up and down as needed. Last night it got very cold again and all of yesterday’s melt became a frozen mess. The front of the house, north facing is an ice slick. There are big patches of browned grass showing through where there were no drifts. The yard was heavily frosted this morning and the early sun produced an eerie haze above the snow.
Today’s two hour delay, stuck and so school is finally back in session for our county and the one where daughter is working. SIL was able to drive his own car to work today, instead of borrowing one of ours. Today, we finally were able to get the Xterra to the shop for an overdue oil change, state inspection and to identify an annoying rattle from beneath it.
The time at home, either stranded or providing care for the grands, I worked on products for my Etsy Shop, adding Organic Arnica Salve, Organic Calendula Salve, Lavender Lip Balm, and an packaging unscented Face and Body cold process soap bar. Two batches of soap were made as well, Goat Milk and Honey an unscented soap, and a Goat Milk Lavender soap scented with essential oil. Those two soaps won’t be ready for the shop until near the end of February as they must cure first.
Though this should have been a great time to spin, I have started and stopped and taken way too long to spin a single bobbin of about 4 ounces of Shetland. I have bought fiber from this vendor before, but this batch had so much vegetable matter in it, that I spent more time picking stuff out of it than I did spinning and did not enjoy using it at all.
In spite of my efforts, it still isn’t really clean and I can’t decide what to do with it. I hate to waste 4 ounces of clean Shetland or some other fiber to ply with it. If I Navajo ply it, it won’t really be enough to do anything with it. It just isn’t worth the time and effort to work with fiber that isn’t well cleaned. Any ideas on how to use it? Navajo ply it, divide it into mini skeins and practice dyeing on it?
My knitting has been slowly working on a pair of socks for me. This time, they actually seem like they are going to fit. I have tried them on after turning the heel and again as the foot has gotten longer. This was another skein of Unplanned Peacock Rainbow, ordered after I gave the pair I made with the first skein to my sister. Her pair was much darker, more vivid colors. This skein, though colorful is paler with a lot of pink in it. This time, I decided to follow The Yarn Harlot’s vanilla sock pattern from her book Knitting Rules! instead of a fancy patterned sock. Since they fit, maybe, I’ll just keep using the basic sock pattern for my socks.
The chickens still won’t leave the hay in front of the coop, but I did get two eggs yesterday, so maybe production is picking up again. One of the young roosters is beginning to try out his voice, so soon we will have his morning greeting, a sound that all farms should have.
So far 5 Soap Saks have been made, one more currently in progress.
The soap making station set up and Mountain Man is cocooned in a towel until it can be cut tomorrow.
A batch of Winter Mint (Christmas Mint or Holiday Mint) is being prepped. What would you name it?Tomorrow when those two molds are freed up, or maybe later today if I choose to use the other molds that I don’t like as much, I will make another batch of Tree Hugger as Mountain Man and Tree Hugger coordinate with my Beard Oils and would make a nice holiday gift for a bearded fellow.
I can’t decide what other scent(s) to make for another scented soap for the Winter Market. My goal is to carry my 4 unscented signature soaps and 4 soaps scented with pure essential oils. What would you buy if you wanted a scented soap?
A resupply of a few essential oils is necessary. I can purchase tiny bottles from the natural foods store, but I need to order larger bottles of my staple oils.
Perhaps I should get some small boxes and pair a soap and Beard oil or Lotion bar for the display.
The great freeze missed us the first night, but made up for it last night. Whatever plants were left in the garden are burned off now. For some reason, maybe the proximity to the front of the house, the Impatiens survived the night. The frost was thick on everything this morning. The car was started about 10 minutes prior to driving A (Grandson that lives with us, (Grands and grown kids will now be referred to only by letter) to his bus stop as he is Florida born and thinks that the 28f and frost mean it is absolute zero and deep snow on the ground. He has been here for 10 months now and survived a winter, but he is still adapting. The pre-start warmed the car and defrosted the windows without having to scrape.
The soap was a success. Once in a while, things go awry and I end up with a batch that never hardens properly. One batch couldn’t even be rebatched to make a usable product and as it was a coffee scrub soap, I couldn’t make it into liquid soap as it would clog a pump or nozzle. There are 27 beautiful, generous bars curing with scraps to cure for our use. Each bar was more than 4.5 ounces, some nearly 5 ounces. The molds are just shy of 10″ and the cutter cuts 1″ bars, so I get a small bar that I cure for our use from each batch made.
These bars will be cured in time for the first Holiday Market day if I am chosen as a vendor. I just found out that decisions won’t be made until the end of the month and notification until November 2. I am glad I made the additional product, there wouldn’t have been sufficient time if I waited.
The oven dried Ancho peppers took much longer than the internet instructions suggested, about 6 hours instead of 2 to 3, but the two pans combined here will make a good batch of enchilada sauce.
The greens ones are sunning each day on a baking rack to allow air circulation. Some are beginning to turn red and they are beginning to show signs of drying out. Once dry, they will be added to the oven dried ones.
Each night they are brought in to the kitchen to keep them from freezing or getting too wet from the dew or frost. Each morning, they are returned to the south deck to continue to ripen and dry if it is a sunny day.
The remaining ripe peppers, instead of using the electricity to run the oven for another 6 hours, were strung and set on window sills in a south window of the breezeway to finish drying.
The garden was very generous with bell peppers and Anchos this year, not so much with Jalapenos and Habaneros. We take what we get and are grateful for the bounty.
We have one more threat of frost tonight, then I can join the chickens in the garden, prepare a garlic bed and get the cloves in the ground, covered with spoiled hay and row cover so we will have the wonderful homegrown garlic next summer. Our first frost as I look back, was 11 days earlier than last year. I need to be better about garden planning and noting dates and harvest, I can’t look back but a year.
A couple of years ago, I began making cold process soap and handmade solid lotion bars so that I knew what the contents of the products were. The soap that I was making was being used in our household and by some of our children and their families. The lotion bars have been used by me, given as gifts to knitter and spinner friends and family and all were well received. This encouraged me to continue to make more and varied products and soon I was stockpiling much more than we could use. A couple of months ago, I opened an Etsy Shop, hoping to make a hobby business out of my passion. I signed up for a folk craft festival. Both the shop and the festival have been or were largely unsuccessful, however, my friends who have been given soap, lotion bars, or beard oils or who have purchased them from me have encouraged me not to give up.
In this vein, one friend suggested that I apply for the Holiday Market at the Farmers’ Market that will occur on two Saturdays, one in November and one in December. I contacted the market manager and received an application. The application was completed and promptly returned with the necessary photos of products. October 15 was the deadline to submit the applications and I am sitting on pins and needles awaiting notification of whether I was accepted for either or both of the days. As soap can be made in a couple of hours, it requires 4 weeks to cure to sufficient hardness to make it marketable. My supply is fairly good right now, especially of the ones scented with essential oils, but 3 of my 4 signature unscented soaps are in a fairly low supply. For the past week, I have debated with myself, whether I should make more soap, knowing that if I don’t get in the market and if my shop business doesn’t pick up, that I would be adding 27 more bars of soap to my supply shelf.
This morning, I decided that the soaps that were in short supply are also the ones that we are most likely to use here, so I hauled out the scale, pot, immersion blender, oils, lye and other accoutrements of a morning of soap making.
I ended up making 3 batches of signature soaps. My Coffee Scrub, Lavender Oatmeal, and Rosemary Oat soaps wrapped in insulating towels on a wide window sill until they can be unmolded and cut tomorrow or the next day. These soaps are all natural soaps made with food grade oils, no preservatives, no artificial colorants and no scent oils. They are all mild castile soaps.
Now my fingers and toes are crossed that I am admitted to at least one of the market days and that my soaps, lotion bars, beard oils, Comfrey salve, and handspun yarns sell. I would love to keep indulging in my love to make these products.
Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family